written by Khatabook | December 21, 2021

Difference Between Headhunting and Recruitment

The process of headhunting and recruitment are both involved in hiring employees. Headhunting is more engaged in hiring exclusive or highly skilled candidates. In comparison, recruitment is required for hiring all employees within an organisation. In this article, you will learn about the difference between headhunting and recruitment, their meaning and processes.  

What is Head Hunting?

The process of recruiting persons for top roles in organisations is known as headhunting. It is also known as executive search. An organisation's board of directors, HR officials, or external executive recruitment representatives known as headhunters may engage in this recruiting. 

What is the Head Hunting process?

Many businesses prefer to hire a headhunter to help them expand their executive talent pool.

Qualities of a good headhunter

  • Deep knowledge of specific industries and employment requirements; 
  • Capacity to detect developing talent;
  • Good at analysing job descriptions and recognising others' abilities;
  • Excellent interpersonal skills;
  • Passion, determination, and perseverance.

Headhunters have carved out a niche for themselves due to their aggressive networking and people abilities, and they are constantly sought after. A professional headhunter will be polite and approachable, and they will already know what qualifies a candidate for the position.

When they contact you, they may appear pushy or unprepared, which could be a red flag.

Detailed Process of headhunting

1. Exclusive research about the candidate 

This is one of the first things you should do when headhunting. Not just your potential candidate, but also the position, should be researched. Remember that the person hired will most likely outrank the majority of your company's employees. You must conduct extensive research and conduct a background check on your prospect's credibility. Your prospect must be not only competent but also have ground-breaking and remarkable abilities or results in their field. 

2. What is the vision of your company 

One thing is certain. Big players seldom join a company with a lower profile than the one where they previously worked. If your prospect has heard of your firm or is familiar with the ideas and mission of your brand, they are more inclined to listen to your pitch and join your organisation. To do so, you'll need to devote time and resources to building your employer brand. Create a brand plan that includes as many outlets as possible. Connect with your candidate and establish a rapport about your company's exposure.

Also Read: Differences Between Recruitment and Selection

3. Making an appropriate balance between enthusiastic and pushy

When approaching a highly-skilled individual, you can become a little pushy. However, the goal is to be passionate without coming across as pushy or persistent. You should provide the candidate with the option to decline the offer. Perhaps you need to develop a unique technique to recruit so that the candidate cannot refuse the offer.

One thing to keep in mind while approaching your ideal prospect is that you are promoting the firm and its culture. It says a lot about your work culture if you are overly persistent and can't seem to take no for an answer. Being overly pushy shows that a target is hovering over your head, and refusing to take no for an answer implies that the repercussions of failing to fulfil those targets are serious. A high-pressure work environment is not the type of workplace culture you want to portray to your potential employer.

4. Follow-up 

Headhunting in HR is similar to selling. A lot of NOs are likely to be heard. In fact, you'll be surprised at how many people would choose to stay at a job they despise rather than take on a new challenge. The key is to follow up with your leads. Establishing a professional relationship with your candidate is critical. However, as previously stated, you don't want to overuse the issue of follow-up. 

You must be aware of the distinction between follow-up and pestering. You don't want to irritate a candidate who is still uncertain. Instead of advertising your company's work culture, perhaps you might educate them on the importance of a strong corporate culture. Instead of marketing your company's perks and benefits, educate your prospect on how perks and benefits improve productivity and efficiency.

5. Verification 

Verification is perhaps the most underappreciated aspect of headhunting in HR. It is obvious that if you are chasing a possible candidate, that person has an excellent CV. Even in the case of people with a lot of experience, the level of exaggeration and misleading information may surprise you. You can always contact their references if you don't want to question your prospect directly regarding the truth of the details.  

It's critical to double-check each applicant before moving forward with the "pitch." It can assist you in identifying and attracting superior individuals for your firm, as well as making you more dependable. 

Headhunting can be an effective technique if you consider the sort of job and individual you're looking for. Let's look at recruitment and see how it differs from headhunting now that we better understand what it is and how to do it.

What is Recruitment?

The process of identifying, attracting, interviewing, choosing, hiring, and onboarding personnel is referred to as recruitment. To put it another way, it covers everything from identifying a staffing requirement to filling it.

Process of Recruitment

While each organisation's recruitment procedure is different, there are some key steps to the hiring process that must be followed:

  • Determine the hiring requirement
  • Make a recruitment strategy
  • Create a position description
  • The position should be advertised
  • Recruit for the job
  • Examine the phone applications- Initial Screening
  • Interviews
  • Background Check of the Applicant
  • Decision/Reference Check
  • Offer of employment
  • Hiring/Onboarding

It is observed that if the recruitment process is too lengthy, 57% of job candidates lose interest. One of the most important strategies to improve the process is to complete it as rapidly as possible, without compromising quality, of course. You can integrate calls to action buttons for instant application in your application process to optimise and conduct it faster. You can also conduct a pre-interview applicant screening to see if the candidate's talents align with the needed skills.

For all enterprises, large and small, finding the right fit is always a challenge. People who deviate significantly from the required roles are frequently shortlisted, which causes delays and increases attrition and turnover if misfit candidates do manage to get both feet inside the organisation.

90% of employees leave their job during the first month if it does not satisfy their expectations as communicated by the recruiter. Ensure you conduct thorough research and consult with all departments to maximise your job description and minimise any inconsistencies.

You could have the highest wages and benefits in your sector, but you don't have a fantastic and compelling employer brand. It makes even more sense for Millennials and Generation Z, for whom the quality of a job is far more important than a handsome pay.

What is the definition of employer branding?

Employer brand refers to how potential employees or job seekers perceive your company. It is more than just a source of income. Employer brand refers to your company's culture, employee engagement, perks and benefits, and so on.

Building a great workplace culture and engaging your staff can help here. With so many "cool places to work" and startups popping up, having a strong work culture is no longer a luxury but a necessity. Also, link your employer brand plan with your company's brand strategy for a fantastic applicant experience as well as a great customer experience.

Difference between Headhunting and Recruitment

1. Variety of Jobs

The most crucial distinction between a headhunter and a recruiter is the difference in recruiting people for different positions.

Typically, headhunters specialise in a small number of positions. A headhunter's role is usually limited to the specific job at hand. To fill an executive tier or corner office position, top management or board members frequently conduct headhunting. The positions are tough to fill and typically necessitate that the candidate is highly talented or at the pinnacle of their profession. 

On the other hand, recruiters are in charge of the organisation's total hiring process. Recruiters typically deal with the lower level of hiring, such as entry-level or middle manager positions. They hire for a variety of positions, and the abilities often overlap. Recruiters are used because they have extensive industry experience or exposure.

2. The situation at work

Most of the time, the role of a headhunter is limited to a single function. For example, suppose a corporation wants to appoint a head of research and development. In that case, the chief technology officer (CTO) will very certainly be involved in the headhunting process together with the board of directors. If the position of marketing director becomes vacant, the Chief executive officer (CEO), rather than the CTO, is involved in the process. When the position is filled, the headhunters' jobs are likewise terminated. 

Recruiters are typically hired only to hire and everything that goes along with it. They oversee the company's hiring process, including job postings to candidate interaction, interviews, hiring, and onboarding new workers. Recruiters are full-time employees who work for the company.

3. The demand of the skills 

In the case of headhunters or headhunting, the candidate does not need to have a wide range of talents; instead, they must be a master and at the top of their field. They are expected to complete their tasks and set an example in their respective areas. 

Recruitment focuses on entry-level or middle-level managers; candidates must possess a varied range of skills. If the organisation is large enough, recruitment will deal with hundreds of job applications. Therefore the standout candidate will ideally be a jack of all crafts. A candidate with a wide skill set not only blends in with the rest of the team but is also adaptable and may be moved between departments.

4. Network

In headhunting, managing vast networks are common, but they are usually limited to a single subject of expertise. The headhunters tasked with filling the director of research and development position are likely to have a limited network. Even though a headhunter's network is less than that of a recruiter, they have a far deeper network in their field of speciality. 

As opposed to headhunters, recruiters tend to have a wider network because recruiting encompasses larger and more diverse spheres of employment. Recruiters have a lot of vacancies and positions to fill. Thus they need a lot of relationships in different areas. It is undeniably true that recruitment necessitates you to be a jack of all trades. Nevertheless, whether you need to be a master of any relies on the type of business with which you are working and the complexity of the task.

5. Requirement of time

Another significant distinction between recruitment and headhunting is this. Because recruiters are working with many applicants, the amount of time available to each prospect is limited. When it comes to recruitment, the emphasis is on quantity.

In the case of headhunters, quality takes precedence over quantity. Headhunters must locate the best in the sector and with the right skills. From scouting to creating rapport to final absorption of the talent, you will need to devote a significant amount of effort to headhunting. Headhunters are known to spend months on a potential target to change their minds owing to a tiny difference in the requisite skill sets. Before concluding a contract, headhunters must identify the appropriate match.  

Also Read: HRM Functions: Top 12 functions of an HRM

Head Hunting and Recruitment are not synonyms

To optimise its employment operations, any industry must comprehend the difference between headhunting and recruitment. It's also critical for your company to figure out how to make recruitment and headhunting more efficient.

Although the distinction appears to be clear on paper, in practice, there are many functions in many corporations where the distinction is negligible. Companies may be perplexed by roles a layer or two above the mid-management level. The solution is to have a thorough discussion with the relevant departments and plan and choose the best path for efficient hiring.


Therefore, headhunters are focused on recruiting specific people in the organisation. This is mainly related to higher-level employees with significant experience. On the contrary, a recruitment process is required for the overall hiring, training and onboarding of a company. We hope that this article has clarified all your doubts about the difference between headhunting and recruitment. 

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Q: Are recruiters from within an organisation?


Yes, the recruiters are generally from within an organisation. However, sometimes an organisation outsources the recruitment process as well.

Q: Do recruiters hire only for a specific position?


 No, they hire for all positions.

Q: Can headhunting hire for all positions?


Headhunters usually hire for specific high-level positions.

Q: Are headhunting and recruitment the same?


No headhunting and recruitment are not synonyms.

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